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Troup awards $461k in hazard pay to county employees

The Troup County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved an award of $461,000 in COVID-19 hazard pay to its employees Tuesday night.

Each full-time employee will receive $1,000, with part-time employees receiving $500 each.

The pay is funded by approximately $1.7 million in federal funds the county received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. 

“We do thank the employees very much,” Chairman Patrick Crews said. “It has been a stressful time. It continues to be a stressful time because we’re still in this virus every day. … I know you will continue to do a great job for the citizens of Troup County.” 

The hazard paychecks will be distributed Nov. 6, County Manager Eric Mosley said.

About half of the CARES money was spent to recoup COVID-19-related expenses in the last fiscal year, with the rest being reserved for the current fiscal year.

The county has already invested CARES funds in safeguarding offices and courts, installing protective glass, deep cleaning, sanitation supplies and other expenses incurred due to the pandemic. The CARES Act stipulates that localities can only use the funds for expenses incurred due to the pandemic.

The City of LaGrange recently awarded $1,500 in hazard pay to each full-time employee and $750 to each part-time employee. The total cost was about $600,000 of the $1.6 million the city received through the CARES Act.

LaGrange’s award included carve-outs — elected officials and department heads did not receive extra pay. Mosley said in an interview that the county opted not to do that as it has many more elected officials than the city. The city has seven — six council members and the mayor — while the county has five commissioners, plus others such as the coroner, clerk of courts, sheriff, probate court judge, solicitor, state court judge and tax commissioner.

“It would exclude so many folks,” Mosley said. “That has not been designed into the plans … my opinion is these individuals were as [much] or more in hazardous conditions than anybody, folks like the sheriff, folks like the solicitor, that worked through every day.”

Crews has sought to dispel rumors the county had been sitting on the money for some time, saying they had received the funds in late September. Crews had expressed support for the idea of awarding hazard pay at the board’s Oct. 1 work session meeting. At that meeting, Mosley and county CFO Sonya Controy said the county’s financial outlook was still somewhat uncertain and that revenue and expenditure figures were still being calculated. Commissioners delayed any promises, pending more research and number-crunching by the county to make sure they could afford the extra pay.

At the Thursday, Oct. 15 meeting, however, Conroy and Mosley said county revenues appear to be steady and climbing. Court revenues have recovered, and sales taxes are up thanks to online sales and the distribution of state and federal benefits stimulating the economy, they said.

Mosley’s assessment was that the county was in sound financial shape and had been prepared for the pandemic due to good financial stewardship in the years leading up to it, so he proposed the award.

“I appreciate the employees’ patience,” Crews said at Tuesday’s meeting. “It allowed us time to discuss this. It’s very important as stewards of the county money to look through our budget and see how we were doing.”

In other business, the board approved a request to buy a new tractor to clear brush at LaGrange-Callaway Airport. Staff had recommended purchasing a Kubota M4 tractor, the price of which was quoted at $65,769.

The county approved two applications to lift the hiring freeze to fill two budgeted positions that are being vacated. The current parks and recreation business manager is retiring and so is an employee in the finance department. According to Mosley, the finance position will be mostly funded by Georgia Department of Transportation and Georgia Department of Human Services grants, which allow state money to be used for administrative services.

Finally, the county approved a fiscal year 2022 grant application for a GDOT grant. The grant would help fund Troup Transit and has done so since 1980.